Day 2 September, 2 2009:
After a good nights sleep in a good bed with my sainted wife, I hatched a plan. I sent the wife and child on to work/school and broke the bike down to replace the bad bearing. As it happened, I ended up with an extra set of rear wheel bearings when I replaced them earlier in the Summer. The bearing didn't come all the way apart like they did the previous time. I'm still not sure why it failed so quickly. I think when I first put them in, I didn't get one pressed in quite far enough so that the center tube was riding on the inner races. I also added grease to them and the grease looked dry when I pulled them out and I did ride them for 100 miles at highway speed with the chain a little tight.
I took the opportunity to swap out the big Ogio backpack for this small Walmart model and dropped about half the clothing from my bags. I also packed a stuff sack to cram my motorcycle jacket into so it could be carried with the luggage.
I loaded the bike in my truck, picked up my mother and took I40 about an hour into Arkansas. I unloaded from there and spent an hour and a half pounding pavement.
Making my way back to the overpass where I flaked the day before.
Once on the trail, I hauled ass. I didn't expect to see Tom that day. I figured I would be at least 200 miles behind him and would need to ride fast and long into the day to make up time on him. Sometime after passing through Beebe I called my wife and told her of my progress. She was tracking Tom's spot messenger and his route puzzled me. He had gone much further North than I expected the trail would take us. He had mentioned that he was going to break the trail to visit a friend. So I thought that might have something to do with it.
Yeah, I should have replaced this bearing when I did the other one, but I thought it might hold and I would have a spare.
I broke the bike down and replaced the bearing in this hay field right by the road. I really lucked out having just enough tools to punch out the old bearing.
It was a real pain in the ass getting the wheel back on the swingarm.
I rode until it started getting dusk, scared to death that the bearings were going to go again. I passed through another town and bought gas. I went to a couple of stations hoping they sold beer, but it was a dry county. I was determined to camp on the side of the road like a real ADVrider, but it wasn't easy. I saw a sweet trail by a river, but it hadn't gotten real dark yet and I wasn't certain I couldn't be seen from the road. While I was down there a truck slowed on the bridge as if they were looking for something and it spooked me so I moved on.
As it got darker, I got more nervous about finding a spot to camp. I was on one of the steepest, roughest rock-filled roads of the trip when I crossed a stream that looked promising.
At first I thought I would follow the stream away from the road, but I found a little clearing that was pretty well hidden from the road.
I wanted to feel the place out before I set up camp so I took some food and a drink and started down toward the stream to eat and call my wife. I figured that the place was so remote and the road so rough that no one would pass through, especially after dark. Fist a pickup went through then some folks on four-wheelers. I figured they were kids at first, but it was a man and woman on one and a child on the other. I called my wife and the four wheelers went slowly past again. They could see me, but my bike was stashed in the weeds up on the hill. The lady asked if I needed help, but I assured her I was OK.
I put up camp after dark, but I was very uncomfortable about almost certainly trespassing. I was sure that the four wheeler people would come back to see if I was still there or maybe they would call the police or land owner to drive by and look for me. I don't know why I was so paranoid, but I'm sure a beer or 6 or having someone with me would have eased my tensions.
I thought that the rough road would be a deterrent from travelling and would ensure I would spend the night uninterrupted, but it was a bad idea. Cars came through every 20-30 minutes until probably 11:00 or so. Because every car that passed slowed to a crawl to cross the bridge, they all sounded like they were going to swing into the field where I was camping.
At about 9:00 a car came from the downstream direction casting its lights into the field before it turned. I peeked out and saw a buck race up the path and in front of my tent. After the car left, I could hear the deer digging and snorting right around the tent. I actually, finally fell asleep and was awakened by a car at around 2:00am. I looked out and saw the deer lying about 20 feet away in front of my tent. WE were surprised to see each other, but I finally went to sleep for the rest of the night swearing to myself I would get up a the very first sign of light.
Day 3 September, 3 2009:
It's was cool and everything covered in dew when I woke up and I was happy to pack up and get out of there. I figured I would ride for a while, then eat some breakfast once it warmed up a bit. I stopped to call my wife before she left for work/school and she was surprised I was already on the road before 7:00. I rode for 100 miles, got concerned about gas and there was a one-pump station. I started getting into the Ozarks by this point and what a beautiful ride.
The roads were so rough, though, that I had to constantly check and tighten my baggage. They were also slippery with greasy mud and exposed rocks. Really fun on a dirtbike, probably challenging on a big bike.
I kept seeing motorcycle tracks and figured they were Tom's, but they looked really fresh. I expected that he rode through there the day before. There were other tracks that looked like ATV tracks so I thought they could have been made by locals. I rode another 100 miles, got worried about gas and there was a two-pump station. The OARK is a TAT landmark. The people there know everything about the trail and talk to nearly every rider. They will let you waste as much time as you want there and will take good care of you while you are there.
When I stopped, a man came from inside and told me that another KTM and a Yamaha had been through there about an hour earlier. From what they told me in the OARK, I surmised that the bikers in front of me were Tom and his friend (on a TW200 (that explains the atv tracks)). They had eaten a long big breakfast. I was hungry at this point, but I just ate a pastry, bought some cookies and water and poured it on in order to run them down.
And I did catch them. Right on Warloop Road of all places. I didn't realize that was where we were, but it was a hell of a road. Actually it way more like riding down a slippery stream with big, slippery rocks.
It turned out that Tom didn't ride much of the trail at all on his second day. He had ridden to NW Arkansas to visit his Friend Donny and they were riding the trail together for the day. That's why they were only a couple of hours ahead of me. Donny and the TW200 were capable of keeping up for the most part, but he had a different agenda from me and probably Tom as well. I really wanted to keep moving West, but we kept stopping for this and that and every time had to eat or drink or smoke something. Donny rode with us to the OK border (after we were followed very closely by local patrol car) then took the highway a couple hundred miles home on the TW200 (not something I envied). Somehow, I managed to not take a single picture of the experience.
The first part of Oklahoma is pretty unremarkable and not unlike Arkansas in its terrain. At one point, Tom saw something familiar and we dropped into this very park-like place next to a beautiful river. Tom recognized the place from another ride report and he thought that if we stopped the owners would come down and talk to us. And they did. They Moved from Alaska and bought this place to rent for picnics and family reunions etc. They didn't have camping, but I think they were working on it. They were still learning about the TAT at the time, I imagine they have met a lot more riders since then. It is a very cool place with very cool people. I encourage everyone on the trail to stop there and, if they have camping, plan to stay there. Unfortunately I don't have a clue what the place is called or where it was.
It was a bit early for us to retire so we rode on probably 30 or 40 miles to the first Oklahoma Gas stop in Salina.
We camped at Snowdale State Park on Lake Hudson just up the road for $10/site. There is a convinience store right at the entrance so we drank a few 20oz beers, ate our camp food, enjoyed hot showers and slept well.
Tom got out all of the OK maps so we could see what we were up against. I think it was around this time I decided to cut my trip a little shorter in order to get home before Monday.
I guess it was Friday Morning when Tom and I lit off for the rest of Oklahoma. We were on our bikes by 8:00 or so riding in fog and occasional rain.
Somewhere in Tom's files there is a video of me trying to pick up this big ass spider, but I chicken out and recoil in horror every time it moves and it moves fast.
Everything in Oklahoma is made of flat iron. Bridges, fences, mailbox posts, swingsets...
Jalopeno corn dog over some kind of spicy nuggets at a truck stop.
Another flat iron bridge
This is the only graffiti I have ever done in my life.
We rode through some beautiful hills and valleys, oil fields, un-fenced cattle fields and stopped in the first shade we come to in miles.
At this point, Tom is becoming very concerned about the sprocket seal leaking. It's probably leaking 1/8th of an ounce of oil per 100 miles, but you know how it sprays all over, attracts dust and looks dangerous.
This was fenced or I would have ridden it.
My tire is taking a beating.
Riding the long straight Gravel in Oklahoma was tough. We rode two abreast when we could, but I would duck behind Tom when cresting hills on the one lane roads (even though we never saw any other vehicles on the road) and would catch a lot of gravel in the face. It was too dusty to drop back out of the range of the flinging so it was a constant dance. Eventually I took a direct hit to the headlight which killed the glass and the bulb.
We made our way to Newkirk, OK 200 miles from where we started at the park. This was going to be my turning around point and Tom was going to continue on to Alma or Alva or something. We found this Napa store. I bought a headlight bulb and Tom searched for an oil seal to no avail.
This is one of those places where time is just stopped. The owner of the store and his customers seemed to have all of the time in the world to learn all about our travels, bikes, jobs, problems, kids etc. Super nice people. We stayed there over an hour and could have stayed all day for all they cared using the phone, computer and chairs. He told us they get riders all the time. I asked what they bought and he said the mostly stopped in to get out of the rain.
He loaned me some packing tape to repair my light.
We left the bikes there, walked down the nearly abandoned downtown of Newkirk to a pharmacy where I got some vitamins and we looked for lithium batteries for Tom's camera or something. This whole store had almost nothing in stock. They had one bottle of men's vitamins. One brand, one bottle.
Tom and I ate at Sonic, got gas and I headed East toward Arkansas and he went West toward Oregon.